Wonders of the Winterless North | Apollo Campervans NZ
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Wonders of the Winterless North

This is a 7 day highlights itinerary of Northland including the jewel in the crown – the Bay of Islands, as you travel the Twin Coast Discovery Themed Highway.

7
Days
1,100
Kms
25+
Stops
144
Islands to visit

Here is where Kupe and the first Maori picked to explore New Zealand and now it’s your turn! Often viewed as the best North Island scenic route, this 1,000 km loop will take you on a journey through the “winterless north” at a pace allowing you enough time to explore. Meander around the best of both coasts of New Zealand’s warmest region, getting off the beaten path and finding your own unique places and memories.

With 144 Islands, world class beaches, along with some of the most culturally significant places in New Zealand, the Bay of Islands is known by people the world over as their trip highlight to Aotearoa. Will it be yours?

That’s just the beginning.

From local legends around Cape Reinga to massive Kauri trees that are thousands of years old, this route will take you on a journey like no other. It’s not just the land that welcomes you, with world class diving and snorkeling at the Poor Knights Islands on the Tutukaka peninsula a favorite part of this route.

To top it off, here is your chance to see kiwis in the wild thanks to the unique experience on offer at Aroha Island Eco-center where you can camp amongst New Zealand's favorite and allusive feathered friends!

 

 
 
 
 

 

Day 1: Auckland to Whangarei (4hrs, 216km)

After picking up your camper from the friendly team at Apollo Auckland, it’s time to head to the “winterless north” and its sub-tropical climate that makes it a perfect year-round destination! Day one sees a short drive to Whangarei, known as the city of 100 beaches. Before you hit the coast, first you have New Zealand's most photographed waterfall to check out. If this isn’t the best place to start a holiday, we don’t know what is!

Pick from a plethora of beaches and enjoy a relaxing day in the water or simply enjoy the views. We recommend Matapouri bay, it’s not the closest to Whangarei which means less people to share it with and it’s a glorious white sand beach perfect for all ages. With a large grassy park and bbq area, it is a lovely place to make your own.

If snorkeling and diving is your thing, the Poor Knights Islands are a must see and tours by Dive! Tutukaka leave daily. These 11-million-year-old islands are an international underwater icon and home to the world's largest underwater sea cave, an abundance of sea life and the world's last remaining dinosaur! How epic is that! You may spot dolphins and even whales, along with a variety of sea birds. As you travel, your guide will tell you all about the local history and legends that add even more value to an already world class destination. You can also paddle board and kayak at the poor knights, making this tour fun for everyone.

Highlights

Where to stay: Whangarei is loaded with freedom camping spots right on the coast but the Freedom Camping Area at Sandy Bay, just 10 min away from Matapouri Bay and Whale bay is a great option, but if you want to stay on the other side of the harbor then Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park makes a perfect option, especially if you have done this trip in reverse.

Apollo hint: If you like a bit more of an adventure, a 40-minute coastal walk from Matapouri bay (or a shorter 15 min walk from the hilltop car park) will take you to the more secluded and quite stunning whale bay which has no road access.

world class diving awaits at the Poor Knights

Day 2: Whangarei to Bay of Islands (1hr 30mins, 80kms)

Today you enter one of the jewels in the crown of New Zealand. With over 140 islands to explore, you can see for yourself why the Bay of Islands is a must see on any New Zealand roadie. Arriving at Pahia, you will find the gateway to some of the best snorkeling, swimming and diving anywhere in the world.

You can relax and unwind for the day on the beautiful beaches or choose to take a dolphin cruise out to the hole in the rock, an awesome natural rock formation, and hear all about the region first hand from those who know it best. Among the beauty of the area is also a sad but important part of New Zealand’s unique history. Visit the memorial site for the “Rainbow Warrior”, a Greenpeace activist boat that played a crucial part in the stopping of nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Ever been the the birth place of a Nation? The Waitangi treaty grounds is where it all began for theAotearoa we know today. It has musesems and memorials along with cultural demonstrations that showcase the important role that Maori have played in making New Zealand what it is today and the conflicted history behind it.

Highlights

Where to stay: Paihia Top 10 Holiday Park has it all. Direct access onto a sheltered lagoon, kayaks, a swimming pool and being just a few minutes from Paihia, it’s a great spot to spend your first night in the Bay of Islands

Apollo hint: Want to spend some time out of the sun? Why not take a visit to Northlands largest glowworm caves at Kawiti and be amazed by sparkling glow worms and rugged rock formations!

The meeting house at Waitangi treaty grounds

Day 3: Explore and Relax in the Bay of Islands (45mins, 40km)

Depending on how much you crammed into your first day at the bay, today you have a few options. You can relax and enjoy some of the best beaches in New Zealand and also take in one of New Zealand's most culturally significant sites – the Waitangi treaty grounds.

Take a dolphin cruise out to the hole in the rock, an awesome natural rock formation, and hear all about the region first hand from those who know it best. This cruise also gives you access to the stunning Urupukapuka Island that you can explore along with a free ferry ticket to visit the lovely town of Russel. Why not have dinner over there and enjoy this beautiful coastal town.

Highlights

Where to stay:  Aroha Island eco-centre is one of our favorite campsites and for good reason. For many locals and international visitors alike, it is the place where you can see kiwis in the wild at your campsite! It is a hidden gem with waterfront pitches and also home to wild kiwi that you can view in bush walks at the campsite at night. The camp hosts have red-filtered torches and a map of all the recent kiwi activity giving you the best chance to spot this illusive, iconic bird. Special note is that when travelling into this campsite at dawn, dusk or at night, please drive slow as often the kiwis wander along the roads!

Apollo hint: Kiwi can be anywhere at Aroha Island, but a good approach to spotting them is set yourself up on one of the seats in Cunningham garden just before first or last light, wait and listen. Often the kiwis will walk right past you, or if you hear them first, it gives you a better chance to sneak along the track and spot them.

Dolphin cruise to the hole in the rock at the Bay of Islands

Day 4: Bay of Islands – Mangonui - Doubtless Bay (1hr 30mins, 125km)

Keep an eye out for kororā, our Little Blue penguins around Mangonui as you explore the wonderful coastlines and beaches before heading further North into the wonderful coastal areas of Northland. Welcome to the stunning, wide expanse of Doubtless bay that stretches from Berghen point in the South to Knuckle point on the Keri Keri peninsula in the North. Explore the Matai bay headlands track and stop off at “coca cola lake” to see how this place got its name before camping beside the beach.

Highlights

Where to stay: Overnight at the seaside Freedom Camping area at Tokerau Beach conveniently located in the middle of Doubtless bay and right on the beach.

Apollo hint: Make sure you stop off for lunch at the world famous Mangonui Fish shop, one of New Zealand’s best lunch spots where you have a chance to see the little blue penguins right off the veranda!

The world famous Mangonui fish shop

Day 5: Doubtless Bay – Kaitaia and a 90-mile beach and Cape Reinga tour (1hr, 45km)

Take a short 30 min drive to Kaitaia to catch your top of the north tour. Your tour will depart based on tides as you are driven first along 90-mile beach towards Cape Reinga, the northern most point of the New Zealand mainland that the public can access. Steeped in history, this tour will take a full day but is full of awesome views and great commentary of the far north, you can even dune sled at Te Paki! Besides the epic views, the cape is also a culturally significant place for Maori whom believe it is a jumping off point for souls as they depart their loves ones on their way to Kawaiki.

Highlights

Where to stay: Just a short drive from Kaitaia you will find Raetea North Side Freedom Camping Area, a lowland forest campsite just off the road and near a lovely stream.

Apollo hint: Doing a full day tour with “Dune Rider, a massive 4WD tour bus is a great way to explore the harder to reach spots of the far North and having a local guide, knowledabagel about the area means you will get the most out of your visit.

Sand boarding the giant dune at Te Paki

Day 6: Kaitaia - Hokianga (2hrs, 100 km)

Make a stop at shipwreck bay, where some of the wrecks can still be viewed at low tide before travelling through rural northland countryside on your way to a little fishing village called Rawene where fresh fish and good coffee can be found. Finally, the day ends with your arrival in Hokianga, where the first Maori arrived in Aotearoa more than 1,000 years ago.

Highlights

Where to stay: The Koutu Mangeroa Picnic area for Campers is ideally placed to explore the surrounding coastal areas and is a skipping stone away from a great surf beach.

Apollo hint: Koutu Boulders are the North Islands version of those found at Moeraki in the South. They are best viewed at low tide and are just a short walk from Mangeroa Campsite.

Looking over the colorful settlement of Rawene in the Hokianga

Day 7: Hokianga – Dargiville – Auckland (4hrs 30mins, 300km)

In the morning, check out the dual settlements of Omapere and Opononi, two quintessential beach side towns steeped in culture. Heading south, one of the best forest walks in the country has been waiting for you for over 2,000 years. A stroll in Waipoua forest will bring you face to face with Tane Mahuta, or “the lord of the forest”, a 2,000-year-old, 51-meter-high Kauri tree. Nearby you will also find the “father of the forest”, estimated to be up to 3,000 years old! This is one of New Zealand’s most famous forests and is also home to loads of native birds for you to enjoy. Leave enough time to chill out at the beautiful Kai Iwi lakes before you continue your trip south through Dargaville and back to Auckland to complete this popular loop route.

Highlights

Apollo hint: Make sure you stop off at Kai Iwi Lakes, a dune lake North of Dargaville created 1.8 million years ago. These lakes are ringed with white sand beaches and are ideal for swimming, fishing paddle boarding and other water sports.

Tane Mahuta, the guardian of the Waipoua forest and tallest Kauri tree in New Zealand

Ready to explore?

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